R v Maple Lodge Farms, 2014 ONCJ 212

Maple Lodge Farms was charged with failure to prevent undue suffering by undue exposure to weather of a large number of chickens, and found guilty on Sept. 27, 2013 of two charges under the Health of Animals Act and its regulations involving the conditions of the transportation of two types of fowl to Maple Lodge Farms for slaughter. On March 27, 2014, the corporation also plead guilty to a further eighteen counts under that statute and regulations.

Details from the original trial can be found here.

The judge began this sentencing decision with “Much can be ascertained about a civilized country by the way its animals are treated”.

In Count 7, Maple Lodge Farms transported 9,576 chickens between Clifford, Ontario and Brampton, Ontario via tractor trailer, including 711 chickens found “dead on arrival” at unloading, where injury or undue suffering was likely to be caused to the animal by reason of undue exposure to the weather, contrary to the Health of Animals Regulations, thereby commiting an offence under section 65(1) of the Health of Animals Act.

In Count 34, the Court found that Maple Lodge Farms transported 10,944 chickens between Moorefield, Ontario and Brampton, Ontario, also via tractor trailer, including 1,181 chickens found “dead on arrival” at unloading, where injury or undue suffering was likely to be caused to the animal by reason of undue exposure to the weather, contrary to the same legislative provisions.

To summarize, over one year and four months, (December 2008 – April 2010), a total of 25,450 chickens died inhumanely by undue exposure to weather or inadequate ventilation during transport.

The Court expressed gratitude for the hard work of both counsel and their respective clients in thorough negotiations to resolve the remaining 58 counts with selected pleas to eighteen further counts, arriving at a total of twenty counts for which Maple Lodge Farms has been found guilty which they found represented an acceptance of responsibility on the part of the corporation. The Court also found their proposed joint sentencing submission to be appropriate, stating “Animal welfare is paramount. Such a sentence serves to deter the company and others from committing such offences” (para. 35).

After acknowledging that the corporation had taken some remedial measures, including personnel changes as an attempt to change the corporate culture to reduce the likelihood of future violations (although many of those measures occurred years after the first charges were imposed), the Court admonished their initial inaction:

The gravity of the offences cannot be understated. Thousands of birds died and many more likely suffered through undue exposure to weather and inadequate ventilation in tarped trailers over a significant period of time. Very little or nothing was done to improve conditions to prevent recurrence at that time. Equipment remained stagnant.
Training was inadequate. Review was perfunctory. Complacency infected the environment. Economic imperatives trumped animal welfare.” (para. 49)

The Court also commended both counsel and their clients for arriving at a joint submission that reflected not only deterrence for Maple Lodge Farms from any noncompliance with the Health of Animals Act but would also serve as a model to rectify some of the difficulties in the poultry industry which have tended to compromise the humane treatment of animals (para. 53).

Finding the joint submission to be appropriate, a total fine of $80,000 ($40,000 per count), along with a 15% victim surcharge free and three years’ probation with oversight of an Independent Expert to oversee practices to ensure regulations and policies are practiced and observed, reporting back to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and the Court.


R v Brown [2016] OJ 7366

The accused was charged with animal cruelty under the Criminal Code for killing his neighbour’s husky Mikayla who had trespassed onto his property to investigate a raccoon in a humane trap. Stating that he was in fear for his safety from the dog and claiming a mentally fragile state due to receiving a prostate cancer diagnosis earlier that same day, he killed Mikayla with three blows of an axe.

The defence submitted a pre-sentencing report to highlight his cancer diagnosis, detailing his difficulty in coming to terms with it. Counsel also stressed that the accused was an animal lover and was known to the local humane society to trap feral cats that he brought to their facility. They acknowledged that due to the nature of the offence, incarceration was warranted, but requested a sentence that could be served in the community on weekends in the 90-day range.

The Crown requested a 12-month custodial sentence, in line with the indictable charge, to emphasize denunciation and deterrence and promote a ‘sense of responsibility’ (para. 47) in the accused whose response to an animal known to him trespassing onto his property was excessively violent. Victim impact statements were submitted by Mikayla’s family. Crown noted as aggravating the accused’s criminal history, which included at least four convictions for assault and two weapon offences, and that he was under an interim release order that prohibited him from possessing any weapon at the time of the incident.

Crown also disputed defence counsel’s claim that the accused had remorse, as she could not find any evidence of that in the pre-sentence report, only that he had mentioned that the “neighbour should’ve kept his dog in the backyard” (para. 50) and otherwise minimized the responsibility for his actions. In addition to the 12 months sentence, Crown also requested two years’ of probation with conditions that included counseling for anger, mental health issues and drugs, no contact or attendance with Mikayla’s family, as well as a restitution order pursuant to 447.1 in the amount of $300 to cover Mikayla’s cremation, and a lifetime animal prohibition order on the care and ownership of any dogs.

While the Court acknowledged the accused’s challenging situation with his cancer diagnosis, they found no medical evidence to support the accused’s claim of being of unsound mind. The Court also highlighted that the accused had other options, such as contacting the Humane Society, rather than resorting to violence. Ultimately, the Court determined that a sentence of 10-months’ imprisonment along with two years of probation with the recommended conditions, as well as DNA order and weapons prohibition, was appropriate in this case.

R v Regnier, 2017 SKCA 83

This is an appeal from the offender’s conviction and subsequent sentencing (unreported) stemming from the use of his dogs as weapons in an assault on a peace officer. The original decision can be found here.

The incident related to the assault involved the offender’s dogs attacking a police officer after a stolen vehicle collision. The offender asserted that he had no involvement in the assault and claimed that his dogs acted on their own merit to protect their owner. He was appealing against his sentence on that conviction to 90-days’ incarceration served intermittently followed by one year of probation. He had also pled guilty to a charge under the provincial Animal Protection Act and had received a concurrent sentence of 30 days.

The offender alleged his trial counsel did not provide him with effective representation and that his sentence was excessive. His notice of appeal against conviction alleges “defence lawyer conflict” and that his “defence was not properly heard” because he had wanted his trial counsel to call two witnesses to corroborate his own testimony to the effect that he had not “sicced” his dogs on a police officer, as well as that his counsel persuaded him to believe the Crown’s case was weak and he reluctantly agreed not to produce further evidence in his defence as a result (para. 2).

While the offender claimed there was ineffective representation by his counsel for not failing to call upon witnesses, there was no evidence put forward to demonstrate those claims apart from the offender’s success in a bylaw appeal in in R v Regnier2016 SKQB 290, as indication that the verdict would have been different in this case had the two witnesses been called (para. 7). This was a Crown appeal against two acquittals on charges under the City of Saskatoon Dangerous Animals Bylaw, 2003, Bylaw No. 8176, which had arisen out of the same occurrence as had led to the assault charge in this case. The offender had also appealed against an order that he destroy one of his dogs, and advised that he had called the two aforementioned witnesses in his defence to the bylaw charges and was acquitted on two of the charges in R v Regnier2015 CarswellSask 902 (WL) (Prov Ct). The offender noted the appeal judge concluded that the justice of the peace who had conducted the trial had implicitly found that he had not “sicced” his dogs on the police officer. In specific terms, the appeal judge wrote:

[41]  The Crown argued that Constable Panamaroff testified that Regnier yelled at his dogs to “get him, bite him, sic him” and that this comment was inconsistent with the finding of due diligence [made by the justice of the peace]. I agree with this statement had the justice of the peace found that Regnier said this. But he did not. While he did not specifically state that he did not believe Constable Panamaroff’s testimony on this point, it is implicit by its absence in the facts that he found.

However, although this finding may appear to contradict those in the criminal trial, this Court noted that the justice of the peace had approached the offender’s due diligence defence in the bylaw trial with a view to determining whether the evidence had established the offender had taken all reasonable precautions to prevent his dogs from causing harm to others. To that end, and perhaps because he was aware or suspected criminal charges might be outstanding, that justice of the peace carefully confined his findings of fact and credibility in a way that focused solely on the actions of the offender’s dogs and allegations of a breach of a court order and two allegations of a dog attack in the bylaw trial.

Therefore, this Court found nothing in the Bylaw Trial and Bylaw Appeal decisions or in the transcript of trial in the current matter that would suggest that the seemingly inconsistent factual conclusions identified occurred by reason that the two witnesses had testified in the one trial and not in the other trial. Because there were no proof of the allegations of miscarriage of justice or a reversible error in respect of the conviction, the offender’s appeal on the conviction was dismissed.

Regarding the sentence appeal, the court varied the incarceration to an 82-day term rather than a 90-day term for not initially being given credit for the time he spent in custody prior to the trial, which the Crown agreed was 8 days.


R v Regnier, 2016 SKPC 116

The accused faced charges of possession of stolen property and assaulting an officer with a weapon. After stealing a vehicle and driving recklessly, a collision resulted. Afterwards, the accused ordered his dogs to attack the officers, which caused them injuries. One of the accused’s dogs had been declared a dangerous dog and had to be inside or muzzled when outside (para.28).

The accused claimed that he did not steal the vehicle, he was convicted of assault. Due to insufficient evidence, the accused was found not guilty on the first count of possession of stolen property.

An interesting feature of this case was whether the dogs were legally deemed as weapons.

The Crown counsel used witness testimonies, specifically from one police constable who had tracked and detained the accused using his service dog. The court deemed the constable’s testimony as credible and determined that the accused’s actions in attempting to evade arrest and ordering his dogs to attack the officers supported a finding of guilt. Using precedent found in McLeod and B.T., and legal definitions that any object that is used to cause injury to a victim could be considered a weapon under section 2 of the Criminal Code per the Supreme Court decision in Lamy, the court found that the dogs, based on their training and ability to follow orders, constituted as weapons (paras.65-66).

The accused was found guilty of assaulting a peace officer with a weapon.


Trecartin v. R., 2018 NBCA 49

This decision is from an appeal launched by the offender, who was convicted and sentenced on a number of charges relating to abuse of his former intimate partner in which can be found in R v Trecartin, 2017 NBQB 71.

The offender had been convicted on nine counts, including uttering threats toward his former partner and committing assaults against her (including an assault with a knife), threatened to harm her dog, failed to comply with undertakings given to peace officers, obstruction of justice by trying to dissuade his victim from testifying, and unlawfully confinement. He was appealing his conviction, and, if unsuccessful, was seeking leave to appeal his sentence.

The offender was appealing on the grounds that the trial judge had erred in law due to section 11 of the Canada Evidence Act, when he refused to allow the
offender the right to confront his former partner directly with a previous statement made to a real estate agent regarding the sale of their house during testimony by having her stand down and Mr. Coughlan testify in her place as part of the cross-examination, as well as an error in judgment by trial court judge limiting appellant’s testimony due to an admission of not being truthful in part of her testimony (para. 5). He also sought leave to appeal on his sentence on the basis that the total sentence is excessive and unreasonable in relation to the circumstances of the offences.

The appeal court found that while it was questionable whether the trial judge should have admitted the evidence given by the former partner but, in doing so, he followed the correct procedure: the trial judge did not see any need to interrupt the flow of the trial, so he did not stand the victim witness down
and instead allowed defence counsel to cross-examine her on that issue and directed them to call the real estate agent when he presented his case (para. 25). The issue was around a conversation the witness had regarding the offender’s phone number when asked by the real estate agent, where she denied that she had it because she was afraid that the offender would try to interfere with the sale of the house, which was within her rights to sell. The house was not sold because the real estate agent did end up speaking to the offender, after which he advised the former partner that he would be taking the house out of his name and tell other local real estate agents to tell their clients not to look at that house if it gets relisted, because the offender had threatened to burn the house down (para. 23).

In addition, the trial judge proceeded to summarize the evidence as it related to each charge, fully explained why he believed the former partner’s evidence given with respect to the essential elements of the offences charged, and that her allegations were unaffected by the inconsistencies in her testimony (para. 30).

The offender’s appeal and the application for leave to appeal his sentence were both dismissed.

R v Trecartin, 2017 NBQB 71

This is the sentencing decision from the judgment, R v Trecartin, 2016 NBQB 238, where the accused was found guilty of a number of charges relating to intimate partner violence directed toward his former partner, including uttering threats to kill her dog while grabbing the animal around their neck. In addition to the conviction for uttering threats to kill, poison or injure an animal or bird under section 264.1(1)(c) of the Criminal Code, which was included with other charges: s. 279(2)(a), s. 267(a), s. 266(a), s. 264.1(1)(a), s. 145(5.1), s. 139(2).

The Crown raised the numerous aggravating factors including that the offences were all indictable, the very nature of the offences consisting as they do of domestic violence and threats against a domestic partner, that the events happened over a prolonged period of time, a weapon was used, planning was required, and that the offender had a criminal record for similar offences (para. 25). The sentencing judge noted that “Domestic violence/intimate partner violence remains a significant social issue. It is a crime of forced control, it is a crime causing deep psychological hurt that often lasts much longer than any physical harm does” (para.34).

The judge rejected the offender’s mental health issues as a mitigating factor, as no medical evidence from a professional had been provided during the trial or sentencing that supported such a claim (para. 34). The judge also soundly rejected any notion that a lack of physical injury to the victim could be construed as the assaults were not serious and therefore may be accepted as mitigating, stating that they “would completely reject such an assertion. The visible signs of injury are no more significant than the invisible psychological damage that can be done… The cuts may heal and the bruises fade – but the sense of self-doubt, the fear, the anxiety and lingering uncertainty of chances missed may never go away for her” (para. 36).

The offender was sentenced to one month consecutive for threatening his former partner’s dog, which was added to the global sentence that totalled103 months (or approximately 8.6 years), along with a weapons prohibition and DNA order. The Crown requested that eligibility for parole be delayed, pursuant to s. 743.6 (1) which states that an order can be made that the offender must serve one half of the sentence or ten years, whichever is less, of their full sentence before being released on full parole, as an expression of society’s denunciation of the offence or to meet the objective of specific or general deterrence.

The judge agreed, “given the flagrant affront to the justice system perpetrated by [the offender]” who had attempted to prevent justice from running its course through violence and intimidation (para. 56), and ordered that the offender serve 51.5 months of his sentence before being eligible for parole, although he would be eligible for remand credit of 1.5 days per day served after his arrest in February 2016.


R v Trecartin, 2016 NBQB 238

The accused was charged with various offences related to allegations of assault (including choking), threats of death or serious bodily harm to the complainant (the accused’s former girlfriend), threats to destroy her property, failure to comply with undertakings given to a police officer, attempt to obstruct or defeat the course of justice and unlawful confinement of the complainant. The two had been in a relationship that the complainant described as controlling, abusive and turbulent, with mental abuse progressing to physical violence, but that she remained in hope that the accused’s behaviour would change and that their relationship would then improve. The accused pleaded guilty to all counts.

The threats to destroy property pertain to the accused grabbing the complainant’s dog by the neck and threatening to kill the animal if she did not give the accused her phone so he could confirm that he wasn’t being recorded. This incident occurred after the accused had followed her to work for the second consecutive day, and she pulled over to call police to ask that they “just make this stop” (para. 17). This resulted in Count 4 of the accused’s charges: knowingly uttering a threat to destroy property, with the property in this case being her dog contrary to s. 264.1(1)(c) of the Criminal Code.

The judge accepted the evidence presented by the Crown and was satisfied that the burden of proof on that count had been met. The accused had hold of the dog by their neck, indicating that the threat to kill the dog was real and intentional (para. 94).

The accused was found guilty on counts 1, 2, 3, 4, 7, 8, 9, 10, and 12. Counts 5 and 6 were withdrawn by the Crown, who had requested that the judge deliver a not guilty verdict on Count 11 due to insufficient evidence.

R v Palakartcheva, 2017 QCCM 108

The accused was charged with two counts of animal cruelty under the Criminal Code: s. 445.1(1)(a) and 446(1)(b). She had voluntarily allowed her bulldog, Ares, to remain alone in a car on a hot and humid summer day in July for a period of at least one hour and ten minutes while she went shopping.

An eyewitness who had been walking their dog alerted police to Ares’ distress, when he noticed him through the car window lying on his side and breathing very rapidly and took video. Police arrived and removed the dog from the car and took him to the emergency animal hospital where a veterinarian diagnosed the dog with heatstroke. The doctor was certain of this diagnosis due to Ares’ abnormally high body temperature and other symptoms indicative of heatstroke, a condition that was seen regularly. Ares’ soon died from his condition.

The accused attempted to refute the veterinarian’s diagnosis and downplay her involvement in Ares’ death, but the judge did not accept her evidence as truthful.

The Prosecutor’s witnesses and evidence from the eyewitness video allowed the judge to come to the decision that the Crown had proven the elements of both charges, which amounted to recklessness that rose to the level of criminal negligence.

R. v. Houle, 2018 QCCQ 7122

The accused, Stephane Houle (Houle), was found guilty in two separate informations for voluntarily neglecting or omitting to provide his domestic animals (two dogs and a cat) with food, water, shelter and suitable and sufficient care as well as intentionally causing pain, suffering and unnecessary injury to animals. The judgment can be found here.

The prosecution had requested 6 months’ prison term and 5-10 years of prohibition of living with and/or caring for animals. The defence was seeking a sentence of 18 months, followed by 12 months’ probation and 100 hours of community service with a three-year animal prohibition order.

The accused sought to use as a mitigating factor the media coverage and the difficulties that he had been through since his animals had been seized the previous year, which the Court rejected, finding Houle’s testimony “very unbelievable” and that he “poses as a victim in relation to everything that happens to him” (para. 14-15). The Court also noted that Houle had a history of criminal behaviour: convicted of receiving stolen goods in 1993, simple possession and drug abuse in 1994, assault in 1996, breach of conditions in the same year, and more recently that he had been arrested and detained for a few days in connection with an assault causing bodily harm and was awaiting trial in that case.

In determining an appropriate sentencing range, the Court relied on Habermehl, Ainsworth, Danfousse, Gerling, Barrett and Berube for guidance. As part of the closing remarks, the Court found the following quote from Danfousse, which had been quoted in the 2004 Campbell Brown decision, to be relevant: Protection of animals is part of our criminal law because a person’s treatment of animals, like the treatment of children, the infirm or other vulnerable parties, is viewed as a barometer of that person’s treatment of people. As with all other criminal offences, harming animals amounts to harming everyone (para. 32).

Houle ultimately was sentenced to four months imprisonment on count 2 of the second information – intentionally causing pain and suffering to his animals – and one month on each of the two other counts to be served concurrently with the initial sentence, for a global sentence of four months’ imprisonment. He also was ordered two years’ probation and a 10-year animal prohibition order.


R. v. Houle, 2018 QCCQ 3203

Stephane Houle (Houle) was charged in two separate cases for voluntarily neglecting or omitting to provide his domestic animals (two dogs and a cat) with food, water, shelter and suitable and sufficient care as well as intentionally causing pain, suffering and unnecessary injury to animals (the same two dogs and a cat).

Houle stated that he was forced to cut back on feeding his pets, as well as himself, to ensure he provided enough food for his daughter due to a reduction in public funds provided to him for living expenses. After running out of the usual dog food he would purchase from the pet store, Houle stated that he resorted to feeding his pets venison and meat pies that have been donated to him.

The evidence provided has shown that Houle was misrepresenting the facts due to the condition of his pets when they were seized and examined by veterinarians, namely due to the condition of Ozzy, a Cane Corso, who weighed half as much as was within the healthy guidelines of a dog his breed, size, and age: 35lbs versus the 70-80lbs his breed should weigh.

The judge made a point to mention the particularly cruel manner he treated Ozzy, the Cane Corso, due to the especially small cage he was kept in as well as the unsanitary environment he was kept in while also neglecting to feed him. Additionally, they pointed out that “if a person is in such a precarious financial situation that he or she is not unable to take care of her animals, she has to resort to assistance, whether it is animal donation or otherwise, but it is not It is not acceptable to let them starve. It is just as unacceptable failure to provide them, at the very least, with adequate care. including decent shelter and acceptable hygiene. None of that was done in the circumstances” (para. 45).

Due to the evidence provided, the lack of defence apart from to repeat the accused’s financial situation, as well as the condition of the home when the animals were seized, Houle was found guilty of s. 446(1)(b)(2)(b) and 445.1(1)(a)(2)(b) of the Criminal Code.